Monday, May 30, 2005

Self Control

Self-control is only courage under another form. It may almost be
regarded as the primary essence of character. It is in virtue of
this quality that Shakespeare defines man as a being "looking
before and after." It forms the chief distinction between man
and the mere animal; and, indeed, there can be no true manhood
without it.

Self-control is at the root of all the virtues. Let a man give
the reins to his impulses and passions, and from that moment he
yields up his moral freedom. He is carried along the current
of life, and becomes the slave of his strongest desire for
the time being.

To be morally free--to be more than an animal--man must be able
to resist instinctive impulse, and this can only be done by the
exercise of self-control. Thus it is this power which constitutes
the real distinction between a physical and a moral life, and that
forms the primary basis of individual character.

In the Bible praise is given, not to the strong man who "taketh a
city," but to the stronger man who "ruleth his own spirit." This
stronger man is he who, by discipline, exercises a constant
control over his thoughts, his speech, and his acts.

Nine-tenths of the vicious desires that degrade society, and which, when indulged, swell into the crimes that disgrace it, would shrink
into insignificance before the advance of valiant self-discipline,
self-respect, and self-control. By the watchful exercise of these
virtues, purity of heart and mind become habitual, and the
character is built up in chastity, virtue, and temperance.

The best support of character will always be found in habit,
which, according as the will is directed rightly or wrongly, as
the case may be, will prove either a benign ruler or a cruel
despot. We may be its willing subject on the one hand, or its
servile slave on the other. It may help us on the road to good,
or it may hurry us on the road to ruin.

"In the supremacy of self-control," says Herbert Spencer,
"consists one of the perfections of the ideal man. Not to be
impulsive--not to be spurred hither and thither by each desire
that in turn comes uppermost--but to be self-restrained, self-
balanced, governed by the joint decision of the feelings in
council assembled, before whom every action shall have been fully
debated and calmly determined--that it is which education, moral
education at least, strives to produce."

It is by patience and self-control that the truly heroic character
is perfected. Life will always be, to a great extent, what we ourselves make it. The cheerful man makes a cheerful world, the gloomy man a gloomy one. We usually find but our own temperament reflected in the dispositions of those about us. And such usually is human life to each of us; it is, for the most part, but the reflection of ourselves.

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11:59 AM  

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